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Preventing an Undercover Video Crisis at Your Farm, Part 2

Joan Sinclair Petzen, Farm Business Management
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

March 23, 2016
Preventing an Undercover Video Crisis at Your Farm, Part 2

A farm can take a few steps to prevent the risk of an undercover video being published about them. By "doing the right thing," a lot can be accomplished toward prevention. At the recent Animal Care Dairy Industry Crisis Drill here in New York, Beth Meyer from American Dairy Association and Dairy Council shared their "Anticipate. Prepare. Protect." Workbook. The booklet details how to do the right thing:
  • Set high animal care standards for yourself and your employees.
  • Ensure your farm exceeds expectations for animal care, cleanliness, and environmental responsibility.
  • Set codes of conduct for animal handling and care and train every worker to follow them.
  • Adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding animal mistreatment or abuse.
  • Be vigilant and be on the lookout for any signs of animal abuse.
  • Require employees to report any signs of abuse immediately.
  • Become familiar with undercover video laws in your state.
When it comes to public relations, the adage "the best defense is a good offense" describes the approach farms should consider. What is your farm's public relations plan? If your community and particularly local media are familiar with the positive things you do taking care of livestock, the land, and employees, it is going to be much more difficult for people to believe a "malicious" attack on your farm practices. As part of your proactive approach, think about who you might invite to help defend your farm if activists target you. These partners will be able to respond more quickly in a crisis if they are already on board and prepared to address a crisis situation.

Employees who handle animals are an important part of your business. Before hiring, thoroughly screen candidates. Agriculture Attorney David Cook states "It is legal to ask a potential employee if he/she is a member of or if they support an animal rights organization. Ask during the interview or on the employment application." You might also ask prospective employees if they are living in transient housing, how long they have been in the area, and what their experience is working in agriculture. Be sure to contact references and do background checks.

Once hired, require employees to sign a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement. "The agreement should include a clause for liquidated damages for taking or distributing photographs or video," according to Cook. Use a probationary period of one to three months and watch them closely. Include animal care practices and proper care for all animals in your employee agreement and have each employee sign it.

Training is another key. Pair new hires with trusted experienced employees to learn the best practices for animal care employed by your farm. The National FARM Program offers a number of training videos on their website. Use these short videos to kick start a discussion of proper animal handling practices in different situations at your employee meetings. Reviewing proper care on a regular basis and employee safety in different aspects of the business are part of a solid employee training program that can prevent animal abuse and protect employees and your business.

"Anticipate. Prepare. Protect" is part of the "Telling Your Story" training program. Copies are available from by contacting Beth Meyer at ADA/DC: You will find more information about these tips and worksheets to help you prevent an undercover attack on your farm's animal care practices.











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Upcoming Events

Dairy Cattle Summer Research Update

July 18, 2019
Batavia, NY

After the day's work is done, come hear about two new research trials conducted by Julio Giordano's lab:
  • Strategies for improving dairy cattle reproductive performance and economics
  • Using automated sensors for improving dairy cattle health monitoring and management

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Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm
Waterloo, NY

Join the Finger Lakes Graziers on a pasture walk and learn about soil health. 
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USDA Announces New Decision Tool for New Dairy Margin Coverage Program

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2019 ? Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today the availability of a new web-based tool - developed in partnership with the University of Wisconsin - to help dairy producers evaluate various scenarios using different coverage levels through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

The 2018 Farm Bill authorized
DMC, a voluntary risk management program that offers financial protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. It replaces the program previously known as the Margin Protection Program for Dairy. Sign up for this USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) program opens on June 17.

"With sign-up for the
DMC program just weeks away, we encourage producers to use this new support tool to help make decisions on participation in the program," Secretary Perdue said. "Dairy producers have faced tough challenges over the years, but the DMC program should help producers better weather the ups and downs in the industry."

The University of Wisconsin launched the decision support tool in cooperation with FSA and funded through a cooperative agreement with the USDA Office of the Chief Economist. The tool was designed to help producers determine the level of coverage under a variety of conditions that will provide them with the strongest financial safety net. It allows farmers to simplify their coverage level selection by combining operation data and other key variables to calculate coverage needs based on price projections.

The decision tool assists producers with calculating total premiums costs and administrative fees associated with participation in
DMC. It also forecasts payments that will be made during the coverage year.

The new Dairy Margin Coverage program offers very appealing options for all dairy farmers to reduce their net income risk due to volatility in milk or feed prices," said Dr. Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Higher coverage levels, monthly payments, and more flexible production coverage options are especially helpful for the sizable majority of farms who can cover much of their milk production with the new five million pound maximum for Tier 1 premiums. This program deserves the careful consideration of all dairy farmers."

For more information, access the tool at For
DMC sign up, eligibility and related program information, visit or contact your local USDA Service Center. To locate your local FSA office, visit

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1